Tarantulas are the world's largest spiders
If spiders are a creepy subject then tarantulas are definitely a big creepy subject. These large arachnids have many species around the world, however most often they are associated with the American West, Mexico and the jungles of Central America. Some can reach the size of a dinner plate and are capable of capturing small birds, mammals and reptiles. These are ground or tree-dwelling spiders that do not spin webs. They are hunters that stalk their prey, pounce on it and inject venom to start liquefying the insides of the victim. And that’s a very graphic description of these fascinating creatures.
The tarantula 'migration' isn't actually a real migration
The town of La Junta, Colorado loves its tarantulas. They bring in tourist dollars. While they are advertised as migrating tarantulas, in actuality, they’re just some boys out looking for a date. Yes, these are all males and at this time of year are on the hunt for females. They’re not youngsters either. Male tarantulas do not reach sexual maturity until they are between 7 to 10 years old, so these boys have been around the block, so to speak. Every fall, in September and early October they partner up with some buddies and all go on a walkabout hunting a mate. Female tarantulas are more homebodies. They stake out a territory, dig a burrow and call the area home. Some can live as long as 25 years. That means it is up to the males to go a’courting.
Male tarantulas go in search of mates
For some reason, south east Colorado is a great place for female tarantulas to dig their burrows, so a whole tarantula tourism industry has grown from the annual march to find a mate. If you go, the best time to see the tarantula herds is about an hour before sunset and they are generally more active on dry, warm, windless days. When a male finds an occupied burrow, he drums his feet on the ground and on his body to get the female in the mood. If there is no resistance, he enters the potential love nest for a night of passion. However, if the female isn’t in the mood, or finds him unsuitable for any reason, he’ll end up as the main course of her dinner. Even if he’s successful, his days are numbered and he dies a few days later anyway.
Tarantulas actually make good pets
A big and imposing as these spiders are, they actually make good, if not somewhat creepy pets. They do best in a large enclosure like a 20 gallon aquarium. Just be sure that it has a tight fitting lid as the tarantulas can climb glass and are excellent escape artists. Give Spidey a couple places to hide and a branch to climb on. The floor of the aquarium should be something natural and soft like coconut coir. A quiet place in the home with subdued lighting will keep your tarantula happiest and the most active, as loud noises and bright lights make them nervous. Feed tarantulas live insects like crickets, caterpillars and meal worms and feed them three or four times a week. Remove any uneaten prey after about 15 minutes. Tarantulas don’t actually consume the whole insect though, the venom they inject, liquefies the innards of the meal and they simply slurp up the resulting goo. Something else to consider is that tarantulas are a long-term responsibility since they live such a long time. As your tarantula grows accustomed to its environment, they seem to enjoy brief excursions out in the house on their owner’s hands or arms. The only problem with this is, the fur on a tarantula can irritate a person’s skin, so do so at your own risk.
If you go to see the tarantulas, be respectful and leave the environment the way you found it
Whether you travel to see the marching tarantulas in the wild, or keep one as a pet, remember that they are living things. Respect them and they will respect you. This also goes for you as a tourist. Be respectful of the local population. Obey traffic and property laws and don’t litter with candy wrappers and trash. You are a guest in the area and you should behave like one. The ecosystem where the spiders live is fragile and we should take care to leave as little trace of our visit as possible. Above all, don’t try to capture your own tarantula from the wild. If you want one for a pet, there are respected breeders that offer healthy and docile individuals. Taking one from the wild only hurts the population in the long run, so don’t do it. Photograph and observe to your heart’s content, however it is best to leave the wild things in the wild.
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